Like many parts of the country we have had our fair share of wind and rain. As a result we have a significant pile of limbs and branches piled up on what could be prime gardening patches. Our trusty gasoline powered chainsaw is not the ideal tool for turning this bramble into the kindling we’ll need next fall. There are any number of literal pitfalls in turning trees into firewood and we encourage you to consult our favorite treatise on the subject, It offers a number of options for felling and bucking, the latter being the traditional term for cutting limbs into firewood. Bucking’s main problem is that even short bar chain saws impart a fair amount of kickback when they first bite into the log. Moreover many times the limb itself is unsteady and subject to moving as the cut is made. Small limbs particularly can buck and rock. Enter the saw buck which uses crossed member X’s along its frame to hold unruly limbs in place or lift up large logs for cross cutting. So prevalent were sawbucks in the 1850’s that $10 bills became known as “sawbucks” in reference to the Roman numeral X residing on the ten dollar bill’s face.
Well, it’s 2011 and we’ve been looking for a mo’ better way to easily prune or turn small limbs into logs or kindling. It is time-consuming to position limbs on and off a saw buck. If you could minimize the erratic dance between saw and limb, it would be far easier to walk up to the bramble above and just cut them in place.. Enter the electric powered WORX JawSaw. It is designed for pruning branches and cutting logs up to 4 inches in diameter.
Setting up for the JawSaw is easily accomplished. You first want to check the chain’s tension and adjust if necessary at the start and periodically during use (more on chain tension in part 2). Filling the oil reservoir with chain lubricating oil is done with the nippled bottle that is supplied. After filling the bottle from our gallon jug of lube we insert the bottle’s nipple in the reservoir port and the vertical reservoir window underneath immediately shows our oil level. Pop the cap on the oil port and we are ready to power up. Once you have the proper gauge extension cord run you are ready to tie it into the JawSaw and get started.
Since we are going to start with cutting some of the limbs in our pile down to size we walk up and pick out the one of the branches on top. We position ourselves to the right of the branch with one hand on the left side forward handle and our other on the rear orange handle. When you depress the lock-off switch and grip the trigger bar on the inside of the handle the blade begins to spin within the upper part of the housing. You want the blade to reach full speed before it comes into contact with the wood. Then we position the stationary jaws over the log.
Below we are in the ready cut position with our forward hand on the grip off the left side of the motor housing as our rear hand moves the orange plunger slightly forward lowering the spinning saw blade. The blade takes its first bite firmly positioning the log against the lower serrated teeth. Now the spinning teeth on the chain guide the action and we let the saw pull itself through the cut. Keep in mind the rookie mistake for two-person cross cut saws that relied solely on muscle. Rookies would appropriately pull the saw to them but then mistakenly push the saw back toward the other person, rather than correctly letting the man on the other side supply all the power for his return. It was a rookie move known as “riding the saw” and should not be committed on this saw either. After initiating the cut let the JawSaw blade pull itself through the cut. Its easier on you and the saw that way. Start “riding” the saw by aggressively pushing in the orange plunger and you’ll stress the motor and the chain without benefit.
1. Love at first bite: My left hand is on the front grip as my back hand gently moves the plunger handle putting the log firmly in the grasp of the spinning saw and lower teeth. The saw is positioned slightly to my right with the cord falling well back of the saw. This is the recommended position and everything is steady on.
We also tried a test cut with our forward hand further back on the stock of the handle rather than on the forward handle by the motor housing. Although the manufacturer directs users to always position the left hand on the grip by the motor we found we were able to control the cut with both hands spaced at either end of the stock. This meant we did not have to lean as far forward and at times was a more comfortable position. Although it is not the recommended position for cutting it is a good indicator of the units stability as it cuts.
2. Mid cut closeup on one of the larger birch limbs: Everything is steady as the saw smoothly pulls through the cut.
Here we are at mid cut on an angled branch. The rope lights were unplugged and the unit was easy to guide in and out of spots where branches jutted at different angles and we needed to smoothly insert and withdraw the saw without catching on anything.
3. Cut Completed: Your weight should be evenly distributed with knees slightly bent as you finish the cut. This way you are prepared to take up the full weight of the saw when the limb is fully severed and easily restore the saw to a horizontal position as you take you thumb off the kill switch and release the trigger. Our camerawoman slowed down the shutter speed on this shot to prove the JawSaw seems related to a Velociraptor on the prowl. Lucky this one is strictly vegetarian.
We found limbing with the JawSaw to be a smooth process with the teeth keeping the saw and limb aligned and stable. We were able to make cuts directly in the pile and create kindling and small logs that will be perfect for starting fires. The whole process is markedly faster and easier with the JawSaw. We can also see how pruning low hanging branches on a tree would benefit from being held in place. But that is work for another day at a different location. Right now we need to get stacking on the cut wood.
Bottom line, if you have stayed away from chain saws because of their tendency to kick or buck this goes a long way towards taming that process. Others who don’t want to deal with mixing gas and oil for a two stroke engine or changing fouled plugs will find this electric saw a quieter, cleaner option. Without a doubt it speeds up the process of pruning and either disposing of small limbs or bucking them down to size for your fireplace or fire pit.
by Jay Rogers/Photography by Lisa Rogers